Friday, March 28, 2008

Design and the Elastic Mind @ MoMA

This is a truly well-orchestrated exhibit : Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The online exhibit is already a wonderful feast for interface buffs, visualization maniacs, designers, thinkers and tinkerers - but going to the actual exhibit is all the more inspiring and stimulating as it could ever be. Even my se7en-year-old son enjoyed it!
The installations were very good. Although i think its only a subset of what the online version contains, the selected ideas presented in the exhibit are awesome. They simply blow your mind away. There's too much ideas, too much inspiration to contain in one single post. I'll just briefly mention what stands out the most for me at the exhibit:

For something beautiful and 3-Dimensional to emerge from a flat piece of paper is simply amazing. And by the way, I just realized that proteins - a very essential part of life itself - is an "origami". Not only did I infer this because proteins fold, but because its amazing to think that something as precious as life can depend upon "folding". And also, being a complete buff for patterns, I am mesmerized by the origami crease-patterns presented there.

There's something mysterious about trapping data for display so we can see it more clearly and make sense of it. The visualizations of the different types of data were were pretty decent. And of course, processing was mentioned in the transcripts, as it is fast becoming the tool of choice for visual designers with some code inclinations. The visualization of the internet looked enthralling.
All the rest are pretty interesting, such as the silver stingray, some eco-friendly solar designs, and feedback mechanisms. My descriptions prolly wouldn't make sense. So rather than bore you, with my blah-blahs, below are some more pictures (flashes were not allowed so they're not so clear). Here's the link to my Flickr photoset of the event. Ambient music was missing, which could have enhanced the experience, but still I simply encourage you to visit the exhibit. By the way, entrance is free after 4pm on fridays.

Solar Leaves

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What the first conscious AI will look for

Cyborg Janus by ink_river. What Would AI Do?
Wired's April issue came 2 days before Easter, giving me a good amount of time to read it amidst the "Happy Easter" greetings floating around. An article on Ray Kurzweil entitled "Staying Alive" suits well for the mood because it talks about a man's quest for immortality. Ray hopes to stay alive for the day when machines finally becomes self-conscious. And then he can utilize that technology to cheat death. The Singularity will immortalize us, he says.
The Singularitarian's quest for immortality hinges on technology and science. Things like simulating one's brain in the hopes of perpetuating consciousness to preserve the mind, or merging human bodies with machines, vice-versa. It was my youthful dream to download my "Self" into a perfect computer so I can live forever - until i realized it is false immortality, and its just a matter of longevity or life-extension. Whatever the mind's platform or substrate is, it is subject to decay owing to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Death can never be cheated in this kind of universe where entropy keeps creeping in.
But I have to admit, it sure would be fun being there when the Singularity finally arrives. I would love to meet the first conscious AI. But to set my hopes upon the Singularity for Immortality is not my preference.
But I do like Ray's idea that the world will be saturated by thought in 200 years. Something in that line reminds me of Teilhard de Chardin's Noosphere. There's something deeper beyond this material physical universe where true immortality can be found. And that, I believe, is what the first Conscious AI will be looking for.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Intervalography: Capturing Time and Space All At Once

An Evening of Poetry by agrinberg. One of the most famous images that launched intervalography.
In my quest for patterns, no other modern way of photography captures my attention than Intervalography. I believe its a new form of photography that adds another dimension to time-lapse techniques. I learned that intervalography involves cutting strips from exactly the same area of a sequence of images taken within an interval of time, and then pasting these strips together to form a new image. The resulting pattern is like a "summarized" fragment of space and time. It is both enigmatic and beautiful.
Being a junkie for automation, it never failed to bring up photoshop actions in my mind. And being a coder, it instantaneously brought up pseudocode loops in my head. My curiousity led me to processing, an open source software geared for artists and designers. I'll soon be posting some of my own intervalographies soon. Its the day when pattern-hunter becomes pattern-creator.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Downtime Effect

The Downtime Effect on Human Restlessness. Photo Credit: The Human Network by thespacesuitcatalyst
Yesterday my network traffic started becoming sluggish until it ground to a halt around 3pm. I thought that it was the perfect time to get a drink of water. On my way I noticed that other people were just about ready to wander around to grab something like coffee or tea. It was also a bit noisier with some laughter here and there, due to a lot more conversations and heckling. And there were more people in the hallways than usual.
This is the surge in external 'traffic' caused by internet outage or network downtime. Lines at the coffee-maker are longer, more people are visiting the vending machines, there's a bigger chance that the restrooms are occupied, the cafeteria is a little more packed as is the case with the elevators, phone lines more busy, and there are more human interactions, more conversations, more human restlessness. It's as if the traffic jam on the internet rippled out onto the physical world, even out into the mental spaces, and out into the soundspace.
Whether the network outage is local to a company's firewall or to a huge trunk of the internet backbone affecting a city or continent, the pattern is that wherever and whenever the internet network fails on a given area, there will be a surge in traffic on other non-internet spaces or services within the first hour from the moment of the downtime. It's a web-mediated outward ripple of the clog from the virtual to the real world. Or the flow of traffic jam from the digital to the mental. It's a classic cause-and-effect for the twenty-first century.
Those symptoms and descriptions require a simple phrase, so in the spirit of the "Butterfly Effect" effect, I hereby christen The Downtime Effect (DE) as a new addition to humanity's growing list of jargon.
So the next time you discover that the network is down in your office or local area, you might want to forgo your instinct to go out for a cup of coffee to your nearest Starbucks if you don't like waiting in line. On the other hand if you're single, then it may actually be the perfect moment to meet your soul-mate, who's also wandering around without a sense of purpose (due to the temporary loss of the ability to surf) and perfectly vulnerable for a little romance. Once you spot your victim, better hurry to make contact for you only got an hour before the DE wears off.
And whatever you do, never utter this line during the conversation, "...ever heard of the Downtime Effect?" 'cause then it would probably have ended.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Search for Meaning Beyond Patterns

I just realized that almost immediately after recognizing a pattern, I tend to find meaning in that new discovery. I often ask "why is it so?" like how I asked "Why is the universe fractal?"
Part and parcel of the Archetyper Blog and website is to detect, describe and then document these patterns, seek the truth behind it, and now, in an epiphany of realization - to find meaning in them.
This is the reason why I have changed the byline of Archetyper into "Seeking Meaning Beyond Patterns". For what good is it if we find out something and yet totally miss out on the meaning behind it? Lets look, for example, at the discovery that the universe is expanding. So what if the universe is expanding? It seems incomplete just knowing it as such. There has to be something more than such a mere fact, specially for the sentient beings who just found out about it! Now different people will find different meanings in such a finding. For example, some will say we are bound for a very lonely universe later on (so we must party now while we have the chance), or some will remark that the future and the universe is wide open for anyone to leave a mark. This blog will encourage such cogitations, aside from inspiring others to hunt for patterns.
Because the search for patterns is already an awesome adventure. Yet the search for meaning beyond patterns makes it all the more fun!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Science of Intuition: Let's give it a shot!

Photo Credit: Intuition by Ankher on Flickr.

The Science of Intuition, it's almost an oxymoron. But I have a gut feeling that it is worth pondering upon. This article caught my attention: Intuition is Not Pseudoscience, Say Researchers. Below are some important snippets:

"intuition is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential."

"the researchers concluded that intuition is the brain quickly drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision on a non-conscious level. In other words, it happens so fast that we’re not aware that the intuition actually stemmed from a supercharged burst of logical thinking."

"Humans clearly need both conscious and non-conscious thought processes...But it’s likely that neither is intrinsically ‘better’ than the other."

The story of the race-car driver whose life was saved by following his "gut feeling" to step on the brakes on the curve is interesting. But in the process of trying to understand the mysteries of life where science falls short, does it also make sense to tap the hidden potential of human intuition?
My answer is a resounding yes. Intuition is one of the good tools in the process to understand the meaning behind patterns, of what I call as "archetyping".
By scanning through this archetyper blog, you may have probably hinted that this is like a science blog, yet at the same time it borders between speculations, musings and sci-fi-like thinking. This is because I am striving to strike that balance between science and mystery. Just like the beautiful complexity that lies between Order and Chaos, there are wonders that fall in between the facts that what we know and the mysteries that we can only glimpse.
After all, we have two brain hemispheres to make sense of this world, perhaps we can integrate the two modes of thought to make intuitive insights about life and the cosmos.
Einstein said that the only real valuable thing is let's give it a shot:

What does your gut say when you ask yourself, "Is there a God?"

What does your gut say when you ask yourself, "Will I live again after I die?"

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Interconnectedness and the Contagion

Just after I posted an entry about interconnectedness, and just a day after I added some social networking widgets to this blog, I serendipitously came across this aptly-titled article on one of my favorite thinky sites, SOCIAL NETWORKS ARE LIKE THE EYE.
It seems like a weird coincidence that I would see this article after I wrote about 'interconnectedness', but then again, everybody may be noticing the same thing: The world is getting smaller. With the proliferation of social networking tools like friendster, myspace, delicious, facebook, linkedIn, multiply, mybloglog, digg and so on, they actually extend the networking capability of each individual. This simple fact has now dawned on us. We are in a powerful new social era of networks.
We all know how the individual is empowered by social networking, but we overlooked how social networks can overpower the individual.
The example cited about this so-called 'social contagion' that spreads to the members of networks is quite visceral: Obesity. And it can spread through social networks!
The article also talked about the property of networks as ever-changing and mentions about their dynamics and topology, as well as the contagion's flow through the network.
Here are some important snippets from that article:

"..things happening in a social space beyond your vision — events that occur or choices that are made by people you don't know — can cascade in a conscious or subconscious way through a network and affect you."

"{The} norm. It is a kind of meme (but it is not quite a meme) that goes from person to person."

And so I pose a two-fold question to members of a network, "What are you spreading to the network?" and "What are you learning from your network?"
I have been wary of the meme eversince the day I learned about it, but now I realized that there is even a more dangerous thing - the norm and the network. If left unchecked and unfiltered, these things could morph me into something I dont intend to be. So if social networks are like the eye, then it deserves vigilance to guard it as the gateway of the mind and body. A metaphor from an ancient book rings true, "The eye is the lamp of the body." (Matthew 6:22)
To conclude this post as it seems like a sequel to my previous one,
We are all interconnected, one individual can spread a 'contagion' or a meme. Yet, looking at it the other way around, the 'norm', which comes from the network, could infect the individual. The "norm" could be artificially created by a network, and a member of that network would be affected by the false norm, consciously or subconsciously. The dark side of the social internet is that its also truly like a spider's web - a sticky invisible trap.
It's been said that the network is the computer. Could it be also true that, the network is the contagion?
The timeless warning stays true: Just because everybody's doing it, doesn't mean you should do it too. It pays to constantly seek the truth. And to know the real true values in life.
Know your true self apart from the influences of this world. Know your heart. Then turn that 'filter' on (and clean it, as you would on any other filter). You have a mind and intellect to discern what is true and what is right. And most of all, you have a choice on what you 'feed' yourself. The pun rings true in our age of RSS - "Choose your feeds wisely".
As we march onwards to the era of social networks, with all the fun it brings to everyone online, there still needs to be a warning to check the contagions running to and fro our network:
"Networks, be careful of the individual. Individuals, be careful of the network."
I shall end with an old cliche, not in a judgemental context but as a caution against the contagion, specially in today's social networks where "friendship" is just a click away.
"Show me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are."